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   Of Beards & Bears - a Q&A with Tony Collingwood!

    In December 2001 animator Tony Collingwood talked about his first
feature 'The King's Beard' and 'Eddy And The Bear'...
From Rarg to riches...

From 'Rarg' through the 'Zee Zone'
to 'The King's Beard'...

Tony Collingwood - Animator....
First thoughts, student life and the
birth of a production partnership....

Captain, Oscar, Gnasher...
A rollcall of classic tv...

Beards and Bears and more...

'Eddy', 'The King's Beard' and
ongoing success...


   Tony Collingwood trained as an animator at Liverpool Polytechnic before moving
   on the the National Film And Television School in Beaconsfield where, in 1988,
   he wrote and directed
'Rarg' in conjunction with his newfound production partner
   Chris O'Hare. 'Rarg' is the winsome tale of a slumberland realm, of Great Plans
   pink flamingoes. Awards and recognition for the film flooded in and enabled
   Tony and Chris to set up Collingwood O'Hare Entertainment...

   Over the last 14 years Collingwood O'Hare have brought us 'Captain Zed And
   The Zee Zone', 'Oscar's Orchestra', the 'Dennis & Gnasher' series, Candy
   Guard's 'Pond Life' and Cat In The Hat starrer 'Daisy-Head Mayzie'. And the
   productions are marching on, with those cute couplets of 'Animal Stories',
   and now 'Eddy And The Bear' and 'The King's Beard'...

    Eddy & The Bear The Mirrored Kingdom

    'Eddy' is a half-hour adaptation of Jez Alborough's delightful books about a
    lad called Eddy and his adventures with a big brown bear. It's a real charmer
    is this, with perfect voice-casting and a splendidly-silly singalong, and it
    airs on ITV in a coverted Christmas morning slot...

    'The King's Beard', meanwhile, is the company's first feature. A 75minute
    show produced in conjunction with Granada it's a tv film with a hunger for
    the Big Screen detailing the amazing events and magical happenings at the
    marvellous Mirrored Kingdom where a revolution is in the works - literally!

    This film is stuffed with action, songs, and a big score. There's a ruthless
    brother, a bumbling father, a wandless fairy, some sassy mice, a luckless
    hero and some really big beards. It's set for an ITV broadcast on Christmas
    Eve, and a home video release soon after...

     Tony Collingwood  Toonhound talks to Tony Collingwood...

    In yet another of those seemingly endless fortuitous moments in the history of
    this site it was Tony who first made contact with me, to praise my 'Rarg' page.
    That film has been close to my heart since I first viewed it, back at the start
    of my long-gestating career and it's brimming with whimsical, BAFTA-nominated
    charm. At the time it reaffirmed my passion for animation and cartoons, and so
    recalling this, The Hound felt there was only one place to start....

    The hound's questions are in bold.


    So here you are, Tony Collingwood - Animator. Was animation
    your childhood destiny, is it what you always wanted to do?

    Pretty much. I've never been handicapped by any other talents. I always
    wrote plays and drew cartoons at school. It all came together when I
    was 11, in 1972 when I saw a show on TV called 'The Do It Yourself
    Animation Show' by Bob Godfrey. He blew away the mystique, and I
    realised that you didn't have to draw like a Disney animator to make
    things move and tell stories. He made the whole process less
    intimidating and more fun.

    Who are your influences, do you bow down before specific
    Toon Gods?

    Obviously Bob Godfrey; then the usual suspects - early Disney, Chuck
    Jones, Tex Avery... But my main influences did not come from animation.
    'The Goons' made a very big impression on me. Radio is the closest
    medium to animation - it gives you the creative freedom and ability to go
    anywhere and do anything without it appearing overworked or forced.
    The next big step after 'The Goons' has to be Douglas Adams and
    'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy'. I also love the work of Powel
    and Pressburger - especially 'A Matter of Life and Death' and 'Black
    Narcissus'. The latter film inspired the perspective shots on 'Rarg'.

    What kind of stuff were you doing at Liverpool Poly?

    Just learning to animate really. Didn't do any polished finished films at all.
    (Too much time in the bars.) I started making an epic 20 minute film about
    a King with 20 ten foot tall daughters, where all the men in the Kingdom
    were only 3 foot tall and couldn't protect the Princess from the 12 foot tall
    men from the south. Thank God I didn't finish it. It was dire. The 16mm film
    can containing it is hidden in my loft.

    Then came the NFT were you teamed up with Chris O'Hare.
    Was it an instant 'click', how did you meet?

    Chris and I met when I was half way through making 'Rarg'. I was screening
    some rushes in the Film School theatre and he was waiting to screen some
    of his documentary rushes. He liked the look of the film and he ended up
    producing it. We get on very well, probably because we're so different. It was
    Chris who brought British Screen and Jim Henson's company to the table to
    raise extra money for 'Rarg' that allowed us to hire the L.S.O. for the sound
    track. I would never have dared to talk to any of those people as a student!

    Was 'Rarg' a story you'd been bursting to tell?

    I'd written the story when I was at Art College. It was going to be my first
    year project at Film School - but ended up consuming my entire time there
    and beyond! I'd always been interested in dreams and the whole film was
    based on the premise - what if characters in a dream found out that they
    where being dreamt? How would they react? What would they do to save
    themselves from the alarm clock?

    How did you get Nigel Hawthorne on board - quite a coup for
    an NFT production wasn't it?

    We just rang up his agent and sent along some of our rushes and Nigel
    said yes! We couldn't believe it. He was the first actor I'd ever directed!
    I remember at the recording session, he did a read through on tape, and
    after he'd finished I didn't know what to say. It sounded perfect. So I just
    pressed the talk-back button and said 'Thank-you'. Nigel laughed and told
    me he'd read each line in lots of different Ways. He guided me through the
    whole direction thing. I still can't thank him enough for all he did for us
    as students.

   So there you are with a lauded and applauded first film
   under your belt. What happened next?

   I tried to get a sequel to "Rarg" off the ground. But everyone wanted
   animated series not specials. I found it bizarre that it was easier to find
   money for 13 half hours rather than one - but that was, and still is, the way
   the business works. So I turned my sequel into a series with the working
   title "Dream Patrol" - all about a group of characters in dreamland who fly
   into kids dreams and help them out of nightmare situations. The series
   ended up being financed by Scottish Television and HIT Entertainment.
   It ended up being called "Captain Zed and the Zee Zone". After that, we
   were on a roll and never really looked back.

   So next came "Oscar's Orchestra", was this self-created as well?
   Did you have a notion to bring classical music to children?

   Oscar's was something that came to me as an initial idea by music
   producer Jan Younghusband who wanted to do an animated orchestra
   teaching music to children. I took this premise and came up with a scenario
   where music was banned in the future. The idea being that if you ban
   anything, then it immediately becomes more interesting to kids! Much like
   "Rarg" and "Captain Zed", I always prefer to come up with the scenario
   and then populate it with the characters.

   "Dennis & Gnasher" has been a high-profile success story,
   were you always a fan? Was it brought to you by DC Thomson,
   or did you approach them to develop it?

   Chris and I where asked in to HIT Entertainment to pitch for the show
   along with other studios in town. I'd always been a fan of "The Beano"
   and as part of our pitch I wrote an opening episode based on a barber
   my Dad used to take us to as kids called "Slasher Brown". That ended
   up being the first episode of season one.

   So here you are, carving out your name in the 'childrens
   TV animation' department when - bingo! - Candy Guard's
   "Pond Life" springs up on your CV. How did that come about?

   Chris O'Hare had already produced the pilot to "Pond Life". The first
   season was made by Bermuda Shorts and Telemagination. For about
   78320 reasons, they couldn't do the second season. Chris helped the
   international distributor and Channel 4 raise the extra finance from
   America and we ended up producing the show. Candy is very, very,
   funny. I learnt a lot working with her.

   Tell me about "Daisy-Head Mayzie". How did a British
   company end up animating an American icon like The Cat
   In The Hat - and for Hanna Barbara too!

   Back in 1991 I was living in L.A. and was approached to direct a
   Seuss feature that sadly still hasn't come to pass, based on Seuss's
   book "Oh. The Places You Will Go". I was later approached by the
   Suess estate about "Daisy-Head Mayzie". I loved the story. Hanna
   Barbera were then brought on board and they produced the show
   from LA and we made it from London. It also gave me the chance
   to work with Philip Appleby again, a fellow Film School student who
   had written the music for "Rarg".

   And now you've produced "Eddy And The Bear". Another
   one brought to you, or did you discover the books?

   Chris O'Hare discovered the three books written by Jez Alborogh.
   The three books naturally fell into a three act structure and where
   perfect for a special. Chris and I then pitched the film to ITV and
   raised the rest of the money to make it.

   Eddy is currently a one-off special. I assume a follow-up has
   been suggested?

   More than a follow up. We've made a 26 part series to follow on from
   the back of the special. As with the special the series features the
   voices of Robert Lindsay as the Bear, Francis de la Tour as the
   narrator and Rupert Garnsey as the little boy, Eddy. (Rupert's voice
   was in danger of breaking by the end of the series!!)

   I've asked this of Peafur and Snowden Fine before. How
   do you and Chris work, are you chalk and cheese, dreamer
   and flamingo?

   Chalk and cheese. We've grown up in the business together and
   learnt a lot from each other along the way. We usually reach the same
   decisions and luckily want to make the same shows - but we approach
   things from completely different directions and meet in the middle!

   So there you are with a concept for - say, again - "Oscar's
   Orchestra". How does it normally progress from your office
   to the broadcasters?

   It's the pitch! You write the "Writer's Bible" the rules of the show;
   some development drawings and a first script - then go in and do the
   big sell! The trick is to do enough work to explain the show - but not
   too much that you go bust in the process.

   Do you have a team of key animators you always use on your

   Artists are like actors. The team has to be cast to fit the production.
   There is a great pool of talent in London and we've been lucky enough
   to work with some brilliant artists over the years.

   I've had emails before for not asking this in my Q&As, so
   can you tell me what animation software do you tend to use?

   Right now we're doing our first computer animated series, called
   "Yoko! Jakamoko! Toto!" We're using the Cel Action 2Dsystem,
   first used on Mark Baker's "Big Knights" series. We have also used
   the Pegs system for computer paint and trace.

   And so to "The King's Beard". Where and How: Where did
   the notion come from? How come it's taken ten years to get
   it into production?

   As I was finishing "Rarg" I came up with the idea of "The King's
   Beard". I do this writing exercise where you write 10 one-paragraph
   stories in a morning. It stops you looking at a blank piece of paper
   waiting for the big idea to hit. Most days I write 10 absolutely crap
   stories. But occasionally you hit pay dirt. One day I simply wrote:

      "There was once a King who had the longest beard in
       the world, and the entire population tried to grow beards
       just like him. This was fine for everyone in town except
       the barber...

    That was the starting point for writing the film. After that I discovered
     the story by asking questions. Why did he have this beard? What
    would the barber do? It was the "bottom drawer project" for ten years,
    because we were so busy with the series work - and quite frankly,
    making a feature seemed too daunting. Chris really believed in the
    idea and kept on at me to develop it. At the end of 1999 I finally got
    the script together with our story editor Helen Stroud - and now it's
    done. At last!!!!!!!

    How long was the final production schedule, and where
    was it animated?

    It took a year and half to make. Again Philip Appleby wrote the
    music. We did a lot of the animation in China with a studio we've
    built up a good relationship with over the years. They pulled out all
    the stops and the standard is way above normal TV specials. We
    spent a very long time on the boarding - if that isn't working then the
    rest is wasted money. Compared to a theatrical animated feature
    our budget was tiny. But there are a few areas where you can do
    as well as the big boys. Script - design - storyboard - voices and
    music. We concentrated very hard on these areas to give ourselves
    the best shot at an entertaining film. I know we couldn't have done
    better - and I'm very proud of the result.

    It's out on video soon after its Christmas TV premiere. Is there
    a DVD coming too? (yes please - with a commentary!)

    So far no DVD release is planned. That is usually a second strand
    of release if the tape proves popular. However, we have prepared
    material for when this happens. We recorded the sound in 5.1 and
    filmed the recording of the orchestra and some of the actors.

    Collingwood O'Hare are known for their 2D animation
    exploits. Have you toyed with the 3D realm?

    So far we haven't moved into 3D. Our only new departure is computer
    animation on the cel-action system.

    And where to next. What plans are afoot?

    As I mentioned earlier, we're doing our new preschool show. I'm also
    beginning to write a new animated feature. Going by my past track
    record, it should be finished in 2010!

     Oscar's Orchestra, Daisy-Head Mayzie and Pond Life...
    And that, as they say, is that. That preschool series turned out to be
    "Yoko! Jakamoko! Toto!" - a gem of a show.

    The Hound remains very grateful for the time and effort Tony took to answer
    my questions in such detail and to furnish me with a plethora of support
    materials and imagery. I hope you found  it informative too...

    'Eddy And The Bear' went on to even greater things, of course, because
    it spawned a BAFTA-winning tv series...

    Sadly, since this interview took place Sir Nigel Hawthorne has died.

    Those enthused by the Collingwood O'Hare CV should hover over
    their mouse buttons and follow the official link here:


    All the series and productions are there - even a few Quicktime clips! - plus
    there's a company profile and news and information on the latest developments
    with the company. An excellent resource, in other words...

    - Till next time!


 all images are, of course, © Collingwood O'Hare  / F2000-2004